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I completely feel for you and I see a lot of similar situations. Based on what you are saying about the biological mom, I would not be surprised if she is ADDADHD herself which makes it really hard for her to help herself or your son. This is a tough situation for you for sure!
I read the above responses and saw lots of good ideas from a variety of perspectives. I have mild ADD (it runs in my family on both sides), my husband has very strong ADHD, and most of our children are also ADD/ADHD (gene pool full of ADD makes it pretty hard to be otherwise).
Recently several of us started on medication (myself included) and that helped a lot, but it doesn’t fix everything. I’m trying hard to be a good mom and for the most part I think I’m succeeding, but it would be because I am focusing on “just loving” my kids. I had to give up the dream for them to be “successful” in the way that that word is usually defined. I have a University Degree. I come from a family of highly educated people (both parents have advanced degrees). It has been hard to give up the usual idea of “success” for my kids especially since I am surrounded by people whos children are so very “successful” in the traditional sense. If I focus on the things that my children have not achieved, I can get sad and feel disappointed, but if I focus on the “successes” that my children have achieved and see how far they have come, I can celebrate with them and be happy for all that they are and all that they have become.
I have one child who has just been through a mental break down and is on the road to recovery. They are currently unemployed, on medical leave from University, and had been living with us for 1 month after coming out of the hospital. They just returned to their own apartment in another city. This is certainly “success” for them right now. I’ve seen how hard this has been for them and I’ve seen them keep on trying even though it was really tough. I could NOT be more proud of them right now!
I have another child who is struggling to finish their high school diploma. ADD procrastination has been a real nemesis for them. This is their 3rd time working to be ready for the exam that is holding up their high school diploma. They have left home and are employed at a “bottom of the barrel” job right now, but for them, this is progress and “success”. Maybe they will get the diploma done this time, and maybe they will need another go at it. I don’t know. I just know that I need to encourage them in the good things that they are trying to do, cry with them when things “go south”, and try to help them get to the next level for them.
I have two other adult children with ADD who are currently employed and working on educational goals in their chosen trades. They will probably never be doctors, lawyers, or accountants, and they will probably never even attend a Univesity, but that is okay. This is “success” for them.
All my kids are good people (for me that is a huge “success”), they are all law abiding citizens (another big “success”), and they are good to each other and to me (a wonderful “success”). So far they have all managed to be fairly good with their finances (I’m very grateful for that “success”), and they have chosen relationships with people who I can respect and appreciate (to miss on that “success” would be really challenging for the whole family). These “successes” are things that I appreciate and thank them for often.
One of the challenges of ADD/ADHD is that you look “normal” so people expect you to be “normal”. The reality is that you are NOT “normal”. Things that come naturally to “normal” people do not happen at all naturally for you. If your son was severely autistic, you would probably already have a different idea of what “success” would look like for him. I would encourage you to look at him as a person of great potential, but also as a person with significant challenges and try to determine what “success” looks like for him. Be there for him. Help him. Let go of the normal “success” picture and work to see him as he is. If he feels the change in your perspective and opinion and it is genuine, he will respond with warmth in return. We all know when someone doesn’t think we measure up. We all resent it and move away from them. We all enjoy being around people who help us to feel good about ourselves, but it is something that can’t be faked. It has to be sincere. You sound like a caring and concerned dad. I can tell that you really want your son to be successful. I hope that you can achieve that together.